Rebecca’s Recipe of the Week: An Excellent Nibble

The great chef James Beard declared that in his kitchen no pepper was used until it had been roasted. I would not go quite that far, but roasting certainly transforms a pepper into something irresistibly delicious. It’s easy to do. Roasted peppers can be used in many ways—I’ll mention a few in a minute—but it’s hardly worth the effort since in my experience a dish of roasted peppers in a little olive oil and salt will be gobbled up immediately. Serve with an aperitivo or as part of your meal.

If by some miracle the peppers don’t get consumed on the spot you can arrange them on a platter with a few quartered hard-cooked eggs, black olives, and fresh basil, to make a little salad (drizzle with more olive oil before serving). Or use anchovies instead of or in addition to the eggs. You can drape them over a pizza. You can mix them with a tin of white beans, parsley, chopped tomatoes, and olive oil for a more substantial lunch. But really you’re going to eat these right away.

Roasted Peppers

Whole peppers of any colour or shape
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil or parsley (optional)

Preheat your grill. Arrange the peppers on a baking tray or oven rack and place them about 4 inches from the grill. Roast the peppers for 8-10 minutes, turning them regularly, until they are charred on all sides. The goal is for the skin to go black and flaky so that it can be removed easily.

Once each peppers is charred on all sides remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool a bit. When it’s cool enough to handle rub off the charred skin to reveal the smooth, roasted flesh underneath. Don’t run it under the tap or you’ll remove the flavour. Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds.

Slice the halved peppers into long strips and put in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add chopped herbs if you wish. They’re ready to serve.

Rebecca’s Recipe of the Week: Poor Man’s Potatoes

This is superb! Potatoes in a silky sauce of onions and green peppers—the slow cooking works a kind of alchemy, transforming the simple ingredients into something really wonderful. Serve this as part of an array of tapas-style dishes, or on its own with some steamed green beans dressed with olive oil and basil, or perhaps quartered hard-cooked eggs arrayed atop a platter of sliced tomatoes, and drizzled with olive oil and shredded basil.

Patatas a lo Pobre [Poor Man’s Potatoes]
Serves 4

15 tablespoons olive oil (you might not need it all)
3 large onions, sliced fine
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 green peppers, cut in half, de-seeded, and roughly chopped
4 bay leaves
1kg potatoes
salt and pepper

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s hot add the onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly so that the onions don’t burn, until the onions have collapsed into a golden, sweet-smelling, tangled mass. Add the garlic, peppers and bay leaves, and continue to cook over low heat for another 15-20 minutes. Add a bit more oil if at any point the mixture starts to stick.
Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes: cut them into thick chip shapes. Put them in a sieve and sprinkle them with a little salt. Leave them aside until the onion mixture is ready.

Now add another 4 tablespoons of oil to the onions and turn up the heat a little bit to warm the oil. Once the onions are bubbling happily add the potatoes, stir, and again reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, between 20 and 35 minutes. Season with pepper and serve. It’s also delicious cold, with a hard-cooked egg, for lunch the next day.

(Recipe adapted from Sam and Sam Clarke, Moro: The Cookbook (2003).)

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